Friday, September 16, 2022

Last Call For Socially Awkward Laws, Con't

So the last time we talked about Texas's insanely unconstitutional social media bounty law in May, the 5th Circuit was about to let the law take effect on June 1 pending its ruling, when it was blocked by SCOTUS on May 31 because it was bonkers as hell.

Tonight, the 5th Circuit handed down its full decision on the law and of course the conservatives crapped out one of the most insane decisions in modern jurisprudence.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a controversial Texas social media law that bars companies from removing posts based on a person’s political ideology, overturning a lower court’s decision to block the law and likely setting up a Supreme Court showdown over the future of online speech.

The ruling could have wide-ranging effects on the future of tech regulation, giving fresh ammunition to conservative politicians who have alleged that major tech companies are silencing their political speech.

But the decision diverges from precedent and recent rulings from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal and lower courts, and tech industry groups are likely they would appeal.

Friday’s opinion was written by Judge Andrew Stephen Oldham, who was nominated to the 5th Circuit by former president Trump. He was joined by Judge Edith Jones, a Reagan appointee. Judge Leslie H. Southwick, a George W. Bush appointee, concurred in part and dissented in part.

In the opinion, Oldham wrote that while the First Amendment guarantees every person’s right to free speech, it doesn’t guarantee corporations the right to “muzzle speech.” The Texas law, he wrote, “does not chill speech; if anything, it chills censorship.”

The ruling criticized the tech industry’s arguments against the law, saying that under the companies’ logic, "email providers, mobile phone companies, and banks could cancel the accounts of anyone who sends an email, makes a phone call, or spends money in support of a disfavored political party, candidate, or business.”

An appeal of the decision could force the Supreme Court, where conservatives have a majority, to weigh in on internet regulation, which has become an increasingly politicized issue since the 2016 election. Democrats have called for new limits on the companies that would block the proliferation of harmful content and misinformation on the platforms, while conservatives have argued that the companies have gone too far in policing their sites, especially after the companies’ 2021 decision to ban Trump following the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol.

In an analysis shared with The Washington Post in July, the industry group Computer & Communications Industry Association, one of the groups that challenged the Texas law, identified more than 100 bills in state legislatures aimed at regulating social media content moderation policies. Many state legislatures have adjourned for the year, so tech lobbyists are bracing for more activity in 2023.

Earlier this week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill into law that forces large social networks to make public their policies for how posts are treated, responding to criticism that posts glorifying violence and hatred are being amplified by the platforms.

“If the Supreme Court doesn’t weigh in, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to operate a nationwide social media company because it could be navigating state rules that differ or even conflict,” said Jeff Kosseff, a cybersecurity law professor at the United States Naval Academy.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court stopped the Texas law from taking effect in a 5-4 decision, responding to an emergency request from tech industry trade groups. However, the judges did not explain the reasoning for their decision, which is common in such requests.

In their ruling, the 5th Circuit judges agreed with Texas that social media companies are “common carriers,” like phone companies, that are subject to government regulations because they provide essential services. Conservatives have long made this argument, which has resonated with at least one Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas, who has written that there are parallels between social media companies and phone companies.

Tech industry groups and legal experts warned that the 5th Circuit’s decision runs counter to First Amendment precedent and warned that it could result in harmful posts staying on social networks.

“Little could be more Orwellian than the government purporting to protect speech by dictating what businesses must say,” said Matt Schruers, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association. “The Texas law compels private enterprises to distribute dangerous content ranging from foreign propaganda to terrorist incitement, and places Americans at risk.”


Understand that right now, under this law, any Texan who has had a post on any major social media account removed can sue that platform for $10,000 per post taken down.  It would be the end of social media as we know it, reducing platforms to spouting unlimited vile harassment and freely without consequence, making social media platforms into common carriers and subject to regulation by the FCC.

The Roberts Court would have to step in, and given a broad enough ruling affirming the law from SCOTUS, it would shut down Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, WhatsApp, all of it.

Of course, since the Texas law would only affect the largest social media platforms, those specifically over 50 million users, smaller ones like, say, Gab, Parler, and Truth Social would be the only game in town, and I'm betting Truth Social would love nothing more than to limit their users accounts to 49,999,999 and sell those accounts to corporations, news outlets, and celebrities for a pretty penny.

Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, probably TikTok too, would be done for. There's no way these companies could stay in business without ridding themselves of tens of millions of users *and* having to adopt a pay-to-play model to limit users to an unregulated cesspool of racist vomit. At the very least, a publicly traded company suddenly forced to shed tens of millions of users would die screaming in the stock market.

Which is the point.

Doing The Immigration Shuffle

As Steve M. points out, the cruelty *is* the point in GOP governors like Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott illegally kidnapping undocumented immigrants from their states and shipping them to blue state sanctuary cities as a wildly awful MAGA campaign stunt version of "reverse freedom rides", it's just not directly being cruel to the immigrants.
DeSantis, and Greg Abbott before him, haven't been separating parents from children. They haven't been shooting or beating or caging the immigrants. (They aren't legally allowed to, obviously, but I'm not sure they're allowed to do what they're doing, either.) They haven't sent them to parts of the country that are full of armed white supremacists who might terrorize them and kill them.

I'm not saying that DeSantis and Abbott are nice people. They're terrible people. But while forcibly relocating the immigrants is cruel, it's not maximally cruel. And they're being sent to places where they're greeted with compassion and provided with some social services.

Why aren't DeSantis and Abbott being maximally cruel to these immigrants? Because to them, and to their national audience of right-wing rage monsters, this isn't about the immigrants.

It's about us.

Every time DeSantis, Abbott, and their rooting section talk about these stunt shipment of human beings, what makes them slaver is not the idea that the immigrants will suffer, but that we will suffer, in our posh liberal enclaves. They exult every time a mayor or governor expresses resentment or declares a state of emergency. We're the ones DeSantis and Abbott want to treat with cruelty. We're the ones they want to hear howl.

This means, obviously that the immigrants themselves are reduced to weapons used against us. DeSantis and Abbott care no more about them than a rock thrower cares about the feelings of a rock. This is sociopathic indifference to the humanity of the immigrants. But we're the enemy they really want to hurt right now.
You have to remember that MAGA jackasses like DeSantis and Abbott and the FOX News Cargo Cult believe that undocumented immigrants are the primary source of crime, drugs, and disease in their states. On top of all that, dealing with immigrants also cost gigantic amounts of state taxpayer dollars over decades, and that immigrants are a huge drain on resources.

There a few better wins in the MAGA playbook than shipping "filthy criminal junkie illegals" to "rich, liberal enclaves" in blue states.  Enough of these busloads and planeloads and these sanctuary cities will collapse into misery, you see. That's what the MAGA CHUDs want to see. Sending immigrants to blue states will eventually cause liberals to turn against immigrants and start adopting Republican immigration policies.

Enough of this, and they get blue states to agree to Build The Wall, and these states will become newly converted red states, and MAGA forever.

At the very least, FOX News will cover every bus, plane, train, dirigible, catapult, and caravan of this behavior where immigration is "weaponized" like this. So they'll keep doing it, with more immigrants, and more often.

"But isn't this illegal?"

Yes, it is. California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is leading that charge, and believe me, while it's necessary to do, it also means DeSantis and Abbott will have a national fight over immigration right before midterms, which is what they want. They want voters to focus on that, and not abortion, Trump's coming indictments, or Biden's rapidly improving numbers.

This is the plan to put Republicans in charge of Congress.

It may very well work.

In A Pickled Herring

Members of Sweden's nationalist right-wing coalition are claiming victory as PM Magdalena Andersson has conceded defeat in this week's national elections, and it's not looking good for the future of the country.

The leader of Sweden’s incumbent Social Democrats conceded defeat in the country’s knife-edge election on Wednesday, handing victory to a loose bloc of rightwing parties that includes the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD).

The prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, called a press conference at which she accepted defeat, while pointing out that the Social Democrats remained Sweden’s largest party with more than 30% of the vote – and that the majority in parliament for the right bloc was very slim.

When postal votes and those of citizens living abroad were counted on Wednesday, a loose coalition of the SD and the three centre-right parties edged ahead to win a majority of three in the parliament of 349 seats.

There is no formal agreement between the SD and the Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals about how they will govern together, although the centre-right parties have said they will not countenance ministerial positions for the far right.

However, the SD’s strong showing, making it Sweden’s second largest party – and the largest on the right with more than 20% of the poll – puts it in a strong position to extract concessions in return for its support in parliament.

“Now the work begins to make Sweden good again,” the SD leader, Jimmie Åkesson, wrote on Facebook.

“We have had enough of failed social democratic policies that for eight years have continued to lead the country in the wrong direction. It is time to start rebuilding security, welfare and cohesion. It is time to put Sweden first,” he wrote.

Ulf Kristersson, whose Moderate party came third with 19% of the poll and who is now in line to become the new prime minister, thanked voters for their trust and said: “Now we will have order in Sweden.”

The final tally showed that the right bloc won 49.6% of votes, while the left bloc secured 48.9%

Given the closeness of the vote and the uncertainty over the final outcome, all the parties had refrained from making statements about a possible new government since polling stations closed on Sunday night. However, some of the key battlegrounds for a future rightwing coalition government with SD influence have already become clear.

Swedish television’s flagship news magazine on Tuesday night aired a short interview with the head of the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism, who expressed concern that the result might encourage racists and repeated earlier accusations that the SD are ambiguous over whether Jews can be Swedes. Björn Söder, formerly party secretary for the SD and a central figure in the party’s leadership, subsequently accused the broadcaster of bias and propaganda and demanded that public service broadcasting should be “fundamentally reformed”. A former Moderate party MP compared public service to “a cancerous tumour” in a tweet.
The Sweden Democrats are right-wing nationalists, with a heavy emphasis on "Sweden for Swedes".  They've long been a problem in the country.

The most electorally successful far-right party in Sweden, the Sweden Democrats (SD, Sverigedemokraterna), have been represented in the national legislature since 2010 and the European Parliament since 2014. Rooted in Nazism and founded by white supremacists in the 1980s, the Sweden Democrats have attempted to rebrand by shifting to rhetoric and policies that stigmatize Islam, Muslims, and Muslim immigration in Sweden. SD members have a history of promoting anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, and racist statements and conspiracy theories.

Established in 1988, founding members of Sweden Democrats (SD) have roots in Nazism and Swedish fascist and white nationalist groups, including Bevara Sverige Svenskt (Keep Sweden Swedish). This includes the party’s first treasurer, Gustaf Ekström (d. 1995), who in 1941 left Sweden to join the Nazis and worked for the notorious Waffen-SS as a translator and propagandist. Anders Klarström, the first elected SD party chairman in 1989, has connections to the neo-Nazi Nordic Realm Party (Nordiska rikspartiet).

After photos came to light of SD members wearing Nazi uniforms in the mid-1990s, the party instituted a ban on uniforms and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Brookings Institute argues that these decisions were an “attempt to present a more respectable image.” Reporting in The Telegraph describes the shift of SD and other parties across Europe, in which white nationalists traded in skinheads and jackboots for “sharp suits and ties,” as the “new far Right.” The Telegraph argues, “Claiming to have left racism and anti-Semitism behind, these parties now concentrate on immigration and ‘the Islamisation of Europe’, disillusionment with the European Union, and undermining the political elite.”

In 2006, then party leader Jimmie Åkesson, Åkesson changed the SD’s logo from “a National Front-style torch to a baby-blue daisy,” furthering the party’s “programme of modernisation.” SD policies have also been “sanitised,” including a shift from “a preoccupation with Nordic ethnicity” to a concept of “open Swedishness” which The Telegraph argues “implies that immigrants are welcome so long as they renounce their other identities and take on ‘Swedish ways’.”

According to a former party member and whistleblower, the softening of SD’s image and policies is “largely PR-driven and meretricious,” and the party “has different ways of talking in public and backstage.” While the party has a record of expelling party members for white nationalism, expelled members have stated that party leadership were aware of their past fascist affiliations.
I don't expect Sweden to go the full Viktor Orban route just yet, but a few more years of this and the SD party will be calling all the Aryan shots in the country. This is bad news for sure, and if Italy goes the same way, the EU is going to be in dire trouble.

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